These are challenging times for churches in America. Increasingly, they realize that if something doesn’t change, they won’t survive. But what is it that must change? How they answer that question actually predicts their future.
“Our church is shrinking away,” they say. “We’ve lost half of our people.” Often they ask, “What needs to happen to turn it around?”
But, more often than not, they don’t like the answers they hear to that question. The realistic answers usually require internal changes—changes to the way they’ve always done things.
So, when they hear a half-dozen significant things to change, they reject all of them. Instead, they keep looking for solutions that seem more comfortable, easier, less disruptive, cheaper and “safer.” Or they decide to wait, to do nothing—and hope that external factors will change to make things better.
I’m reminded of my friend Joe. He lives an unhealthy lifestyle. He’s seriously obese, smokes two packs of cigarettes a day, drinks too much alcohol and never exercises. After seeing his health deteriorate, he went to the doctor. The doc told him if some things don’t change, he’ll be dead in a year or two. The doctor advised Joe to change his eating and drinking habits, stop smoking, and start exercising.
Those weren’t the prescriptions that Joe wanted to hear. “Can’t you just give me a pill to feel better?” he asked.
Many churches are hoping for a magic pill too. If only the population would change their habits and want to come to church. If only the schools would stop having ball games on Sunday. If only the media would stop portraying Christians as loons. If only the members would double their giving. If only the people would stop their sinning.
If only. It’s human nature to avoid change, to hope that somebody else will make things better for us.
The bad news is, those other people or factors are not likely to change or make things better for us. The good news is, we have the power, with God’s help, to make good changes in our own wheelhouse. Even if they’re uncomfortable to make.
In these rapidly changing times, the churches that will survive and thrive are those that embrace three things:
1. See that God is, once again, making all things new.
2. Fear not. Trust God.
3. Don’t wait for an easy pill. Initiate necessary change. Now.